Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek's Koran Abuse Part 5

Claudia Rosett at the WSJ has a great piece on the Newsweek fiasco. Some excerpts:

With Newsweek's retraction of its story about Koran abuse at Guantanomo Bay, we are now deep into yet another bout of soul-searching by the U.S. media. The pity would be if, in all the parsing of media methods and pondering of the mysteries of anonymous sources, we missed the bigger picture--which is all about why Muslims offended by an item in a U.S. magazine, true or false, would react with riots that end in the maiming and killing of their own....

...Let's pause right there. We are hearing that Muslims, infuriated by a report of blasphemy, went on violent rampages that resulted in . . . dead Muslims and burned mosques. Meanwhile, not only is Newsweek apologizing and retracting, but the U.S. government is regretting the loss of life.

What's really going on here is two stories. One involves Newsweek and the ups and downs of U.S. journalism. The other involves a swath of the Islamic world in which anger, fueled by years of gross political misrule, is a chronic feature of life--seeking to acquire a target. What produced these particular riots was the intersection of Islamic-world furies and that brand of U.S. self-absorption in which no subject is more fascinating to the American media than any possible misdeeds of the U.S. itself....

...The tragedy in all this is that while the entire world is by now acquainted with tales--true and false--about Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay, the information pretty much ends there. When it comes to the Islamic world's most despotic states, almost no one outside their borders can reel off the names of the prisons they run, let alone tales of what happens within. Afghanistan is still recovering from the Taliban blackout of the human soul--which at the time received almost no coverage. Saudi Arabia--whence the Arab News, in its disquisition on Newsweek's story, denounces the U.S. as "ignorant and insensitive"--provides no accounting to the world of its dungeons. Can anyone name a prison in Yemen?

The point is not to engage in a tit-for-tat recitation of prison management, or invite a reprise of those absurd old Soviet debates, in which Moscow's reply to charges of millions dead in the gulag was that America had street crime....

...But to whatever extent the press is engaged in the business of trying to report the truth, or contribute to the making of a better world, it would be a service not only to U.S. journalism, but to the wider world--including Muslims--to spend less effort dredging Guantanomo Bay, and more time wielding the huge resources at our disposal to report on the prisons of the Islamic world. It is in such places that the recent riots had their true origins.

But read the whole thing.

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